A mobile strategy for a local media company

If I were to outline a mobile strategy for a local media company here is what it would look like. What am I missing?

Product approach

  • Provide a unique experience
  • Focus on a strong brand, good performance, good design and provide easy to use services
  • Define business objectives
  • Be transactional
  • Make it fun
    • Gamify local news and information if you can

Audience approach

  • Recognize mobile users are task driven and formulate everything around that
  • Know what users are doing on mobile devices in the market
  • Sharing+Location+Socializing

Mobile content strategy around local news and information

  • In general
    • Define what’s in and what’s out. Don’t be everything to everyone.
    • Adhere to the business objectives
  • News
    • Daily flow of information for just mobile users
      • You picks
      • Community’s picks
      • Traffic/weather/breaking news
      • Easy submission tools where content goes live immediately
    • Quote of the day with some context
    • Events to go to right now, later today, tomorrow, next week
    • Daily poll
    • Social flow of local news, information and people
  • Sports
    • Information unique to mobile users
      • Scores
      • Video highlights
      • Games, player recaps
      • Best of local personalities/bloggers
    • Best sports performance of the week
    • Athletes/games to watch this week
    • Events
    • Social flow of local/national/collegiate sports news, information and people
  • Search
    • Local search for things to do right now
    • Local business directory of places to eat, drink or get service right now

Business model

  • Location based opportunities based on preferences, behavior
  • Coupons
  • Deep discounts
  • Virtual goods
  • Buy photos


  • Measure the quality of the interactions
  • Measure real-world interactions
  • Reward influence in real-time

Some links I referenced for this post:


Two links worth reading

Two of the better links from my reader this morning:

Are you Experienced? – At a minimum, everyone using social media and participating in innovation should understand that they are new tools, not completely understood, and often lack participation and involvement by the people most experienced in life. – Jeffrey Phillips

Cooperation vs Collaboration – How can we ensure that collaboration and cooperation coexist without threatening the organic, self organizing nature of connectives? – cloudhead

Online communities need software and people

I’m a firm believer that you can’t teach social behavior. You either participate and are active in that aspect of society or you’re not. Software can provide the tools and break down barriers, but it’s never enough.

I’m amazed at the number of times reporters at media companies use the same sources or cover town meeting the same way they have for years. Being a part of a highly engaged  and active community is a personal choice and requires living, working and playing in different ways with new behaviors.

Every workday is going to end with an hour of learning… reading Kawasaki and Godin and Ries and Trout, talking with invited experts, meeting with members of the community about what worked and what didn’t worked. Everyone who joins the program (and survives for a year) will come out with an almost supernatural ability to take a dead, lifeless site on the internet and make it into the hottest bar in town. That’s a skill worth learning for the 21st century.

Modern community building – Joel Spolsky

Modern community building -Fred Wilson

Launch something new every 30 days

NASA Shuttle Launch Photos

The need for culture change in newsrooms is well documented, including most recently from Doug Fisher citing Earl Wilkinson.

I won’t recite past specifics on why or how it can be achieved. Ultimately, it’s a personal decision where each individual must decide to change.

Here’s an idea I floated a couple of weeks ago to a team at work. I want to launch something new every 30 days. I’ve never done that before. The items in bold listed below seem like good places to focus.

Culture change in the news industry involves a collection of practices that break from the past, some obvious and some not-so-obvious — yet all not generally practiced in our industry even today:

  • Listen to the market.
  • Prioritise expenditures to your USPs.
  • Outsource, link or cut what isn’t your USP.
  • More sales feet on the street.
  • Invest in research.
  • Digital first.
  • Focus relentlessly on your differentiators.
  • Sell market solutions, not space.
  • Dialogue, not monologue.
  • Embrace the crowd.
  • Be willing to fail, but fail fast.
  • Go on the offense for readers and advertisers.
  • Speed over perfection.
  • You can’t be all things to all people.
  • Respect the platform for its unique value.
  • Go where the growth is.
  • Be relevant.
  • Place many small bets.
  • Low-cost innovation.

The last thing I was apart of that went out to the market launched June 13. I guess I better get going.

Why INMA will keep talking about culture change at newspapers

A mobile content strategy in action

Mobile is all about living in the moment, what’s hot and relevant right now in regards to time, place and information. Ever increasingly it is also about context such as personalized search and social engagement.

I’m doing some research today while working on a project request for a new mobile app (mentioned in this post) I’m pitching and came across this example of a mobile content strategy implemented by a hotel:

One major difference is telling multiple stories (web) vs. telling a single, focused story at a given moment (mobile). To make this happen, along with the functionality, the editorial structure had to change significantly. For example, for the mobile site, content that encouraged booking was prioritized, and the language became less marketing, more instructional. – Three things about mobile content

Do you have an example of a mobile content strategy that you’ve implemented?

Every business and brand is a publisher and vice versa

I find the new media discussion on personal branding and whether its ruining journalism to be one big waste of time. But it has been entertaining.

That shift actually occurred about three to four years ago when, in my view, skills like community management, content strategy and content marketing became more well known and part of normal business practices. It’s time to move on.

The one glaring problem that maybe the example between Steve Buttry and Gene Weingarten proves is this: Traditionally, media companies and journalists haven’t viewed content as a business asset, while other industries outside of publishing have embraced it.

Journalism has an ethic of “objectivity” that pushes us to pretend we are objects, not people. And you can’t develop a personal brand without being a person and being seen as one. – Buttry

The truth is every business, person, brand or journalist with a blog, Twitter account or Facebook fan page is a brand and a publisher. So is the guy sitting in his mother’s basement uploading videos on YouTube.

Of course, the problem with the whole argument here is that Weingarten is a brand, and he kind of knows it. He even says as much in his own way.

When I was a hungry young reporter in the 1970s, I thought of myself as a superman, an invincible crusader for truth and justice — even though, looking back at old pictures, I now see that I resembled an emaciated weasel in unattractive clothing. My goals, however, were unambiguous, and heroic: 1) Get great stories that improve the world. 2) Get famous. 3) Get doe-eyed young women to lean in close and whisper, “Take me.” – Weingarten

Redefining the rules of business

It seems most business see this as a risk, but the rewards are often well worth it for those that take this right approach. One example is Netflix. Who else does business like this? Like the link references, make sure to check out slides 40 and 41.

“When you design the business around the experience, (instead of the experience around the business) you create a more powerful and relatable offer.” – Colin Raney

Business Model: Create a Platform for an Experience

Some of the projects I’m currently engaged with

A quick rundown of some of the projects I am involved with inside and outside of regular work. If any of these spark your interest, check them out and give me some feedback. Would love to hear your thoughts.


I work at a media company in Iowa and politics is one of the things outside of work that I follow most closely. We’ve launched a niche site, IowaCaucus.com, without many resources to keep people engaged. It’s a start. We have one internal content resource and two people contributing regularly to compliment curation efforts and wire content.Our SEO efforts need to improve, and we have plans for a couple of features that would help engage with the audience.

Hoopla Music

I’ve been involved with the Hoopla Music project from the start. I enjoy the live music scene in Eastern Iowa, and it’s better than you might think. This site is easy to navigate as include the most comprehensive list of live music shows in the area. From the start, we committed a live person to contact bands and local venues to create the data. It launched about two weeks ago and so far the traffic is low but the audience has had nothing but good things to say.


I’m no stranger to the barcamp experience and when I heard a group of local people in the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City area were starting the process to organize one I wanted to help in some way. I am currently working on the content of the site. It’s live and we formally hope to launch late next week. The goal of the barcamp is to get the creative and innovate minds together in the area and start a dialogue and  do some things that help better the community.

Other ideas I’m working on:

The essential mobile app for Univ. of Iowa college students – The name sounds pretty lofty but all the mobile apps out there seem to cater to the classroom experience. We are working on focus groups to learn exactly what could make the experience of living in the Iowa City area better. So far, the hypothesis centers around these topics: study, drink, recreation, style. We should learn much from the focus groups.

Proactive approach to community contributors – Our company has done well in recruiting and receiving photos, videos and news tips from people who are willing to help us cover the news. But we have no internal mechanism to easily contact them when breaking news or weather events occur. These contributors could also be good sources for community news and events we don’t know about. I’m working with a small group to define the requirements of building a service to group contributors into affinity groups with a trigger to email, text or phone them when it is most relevant.

Mobile strategy – As the web continues to shrink and the need for local media to be more liquid, how a media company plays in the mobile space will be essential to our survival. Not to mention how we make money on mobile platforms.

Product differentiation via storytelling – We have newspaper and broadcast television packages that look and feel very similar on web and mobile platforms. No on is really training or educating well on storytelling on digital platforms. I’m working with a few others to define the training and tools necessary to transition our teams to work that into the everyday workflow.

What projects are you currently working on?


A local, social-first approach to the bin Laden story

I’m still a bit out of it from a lack of sleep but it’s worth sharing a few notes about a local, digital approach to covering the announcement that Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. special forces on Sunday.

I had a unique perspective since Sundays are the day I’m responsible directly for online content updates – which feed mobile – user submissions and the conversations that occur on social channels for brands associated with a local newspaper and television station.

I first learned that President Barack Obama would give a major national security address via Twitter shortly after watching the Tampa Bay Lighting defeated the Washington Capitals in overtime, 3-2. (As a Penguins fan who knew the night was going to get any better).

I turned on CNN and the first thing Wolf Blitzer said was that the announcement would not be on Libya. My gut reaction was bin Laden is dead, which makes it a relevant story for just about every American, and that was soon confirmed.

My first thoughts from a local news perspective likely aren’t surprising. Information is spread on social networks faster and with more emotion than any news site. Some go as far as calling it a people-first approach.

I immediately turned to Facebook and Twitter. My thinking from a local perspective was simple: What outlet allows me to reach the best audience and add the most value? It helps that our followings are strong. The TV branded Facebook page has more than 19,300 fans and the newspaper brand has more than 7,500. Twitter followers are 5,400 and 3,400, respectively.

It started simple with a social update that Obama will give a major address on national security and answering questions from people wanting to know what’s happening. The second update was the confirmation and opportunity to interact with others on the news while giving access to more opportunities to consume information as it happened.

At this point, once the news was confirmed and I had access to an Associated Press update I then posted a story, photo and links on the two news sites.  That was immediately followed with a social push asking for our local community’s reaction and offering a place they could talk to one another.

And the night and early morning hours progressed in similar manner between content updates and conversational opportunities on social channels.

My coverage wasn’t perfect by any means, and I know of at least three opportunities I missed.

Here are some of the things I learned. What did you learn?

  • I read every comment on Facebook and every response on Twitter to direct questions that I posed. It helped me learn the next move and what content updates may be useful.
  • The audience on Facebook and Twitter changes so much hour-by-hour that the amount of responses and engagement stayed consistent.
  • I could feel people’s emotion via the comments on social networks, which was a better gauge than any online metrics could provide.
  • People from the local community were more apt to click on link to value-added and analytical information than the latest news update.

By the numbers

  • 13 Facebook updates
  • 437 Facebook comments
  • 17 Twitter updates
  • 28 Twitter responses